I’m Not Having This Conversation Anymore
I’m late to the party, but I’m going to talk about why the Slutwalk is epic and awesome and has absolutely nothing to do with sex, which is what everyone seems to be getting arms about, as well as the issue of pejorative names, which is a slightly more relevant topic.
Here’s your obligatory background sentence. Don’t say I never did anything for you. At a local community meeting about women’s safety, Constable Michael Sanguinetti had recommended that if women wanted to avoid sexual assault they shouldn’t dress like “sluts.”
You know, he was just saying.
Let me also explain, slowly and clearly, that I have been called every gendered name under the sun (including slut pretty consistently) in order to shame me. There’s no other reason to call names unless you’re trying to shame a person (or reclaim the term—more on that later).
My reaction to this shaming has been to grab the terms and run with them. I wear a little necklace that says BITCH in rhinestones. I’ve got a baby tee that says “Let’s Fuck Tonight!” in an absolutely beautiful purple script. I also want my readers to understand that I thought about buying these things and wearing them very carefully, and I thought about what they would say and what they would do. I’m 30 years old, I stopped trying to shock mommy half my life ago (she’s unflappable anyway, it wasn’t very satisfying). This is a deliberate, thought out move on my part.
The reason Slutwalks are so important is because they change the course of the conversation we have about sexuality drastically. You can be on either side of that conversation all you want, but they are putting nails in the coffin of the old discourse. Please, for the love of god, stop cheering for the old discourse.
The thing is, 90% of the time, slut is a designation given to a person by someone else. Let’s just get the Feminism 101 out of the way here. Slut is a concept, sluthood is not a concrete state of being. For other states of being, there are some pretty solid things that you have to do to fit into that category. If you’re a vegan, for instance, everyone agrees that vegans don’t eat or use any animal products. Vegan has a definition. Zero animal products. Slut…doesn’t have much of a definition. Well, I guess it does.
- a. A person, especially a woman, considered sexually promiscuous.
Of course, that doesn’t say who does the considering. There’s not a slut board of directors, is there? You there…you’re more of a skank. We’re sorry.
The Slutwalk has completely and utterly reversed that conversation. Now that the wayward girls and wicked women have opted to totally flip the script, they are attempting to finish this issue in more ways than one. I fully and truly support this dialogue being changed (and I also look forward to the opportunity to march down the street in my fucking panties if I feel like it).
Slutwalks don’t intrinsically shame people who have very few sexual partners. Do you want to know why? Because there is no such thing as a slut. There is no magic number where you hit sluthood and you get your official toaster. We’re not talking about Sluts vs. Prudes, which is where the argument seems to be going. We’re talking about ways that we shame women with words for their sexuality (and that does include the ever-popular “frigid,” in case you missed that one). There is no such thing as a slut. There is no such thing as a prude. There are only derogatory names for women’s sexuality. Can you think of a single positive term used widely to denote a woman with “a lot” of sexual partners? Go on. I’ll wait.
Slutwalks are absurd because the concept of the slut is absurd. Showing up in pearls and a smile isn’t required, but it’s a certain level of absurdity that throws up a critical mirror at the concept of a slut. Ye shall know her by how high her heels are? No, that’s not how that works. Only the most uninformed of us think that the Slutwalk is actually a parade of women who fuck everything that moves. The rest of us are reacting to the actual damaging ridiculousness of the idea that what you wear is directly related to how much you will deserve it if another human being hurts you.
Slutwalks also challenge another cultural myth, which is that the responsibility for sexual assault is with the victim. Slutwalk is busy poking holes in that myth. Slutwalk looks directly into the face of Mister Sanguinetti and says “Please, tell me which one of us is asking for it?”
This is also something that people need to understand. There are very few people on the planet who think, “YAY, RAPE.” There, however, are a lot of people on the planet who have been drowned from birth in cultural narratives that do, occasionally, amount to YAY RAPE in a much more insidious way. How many times have we heard that women are supposed to coyly say no, which really means yes? How many times have we heard that men don’t have feelings and should be indifferent to the suffering of others, ruthless in their pursuits of what they want? How many times have we been told what a victim should act like (which is incorrect and correct simultaneously)? These things exist and they are sad and they are no way for people to interact with one another and they are absolutely fucking ridiculous.
Slutwalk is attempting to change all of these conversations and it is taking terms used to hurt women and repossessing them to do so. This is a change. Change is good. You might not agree with the method of the change, but we’re entering into a completely new era of discursive sexuality.
And it’s going to be pretty fucking awesome to march across the National Mall wearing tailfeathers and nothing else in what will possibly be one of the safest environment where you could do so (and if you see me at the DC Slutwalk, please come say hi).